Saturday, September 22, 2007

Flashback 2: Ambulance ride to first hospital

This is the second installment looking back at the day of my injury, April 09, 2004. You can read the first one if you scroll back through older posts, it is titled: "So how did this all happen?"

After I went into the office and called 911, I returned to the tiny, very old, bow-back chair in our kitchen, first stopping at the freezer for a bag of frozen peas. Every injury I've ever had, I've put ice on it and had great success. Just like with horses. If I had a trauma to a horse's leg, I'd run cold water on it from a hose, several times a day.

I sat down with the peas (and remember, I had to remain bent over at the waist and allow my head to hang down because I could not hold the weight of my head up at all) and attempted to put the bag on the back of my neck, but that was over-the-top painful and I knew that wasn't going to happen. I just sat there with my head hanging down about to my knees, praying and worrying about what had happened to me. My husband came back in the house from putting the horse back in the barn. I can only imagine how worried he was. He expected to drive me to the emergency room but I told him that there really wasn't a chance that I could walk out to the pickup and climb up into it and then endure the ride to the hospital. I let him him know I'd called the ambulance, and then I remember sitting there saying out loud, "Why don't they get here? Why don't they get here?" It seemed SO long before he told me that they had arrived.

Several responders came into the kitchen and asked me some questions. I remember they asked me if I had been knocked out, and I'd answered no. It was a month later that the neurosurgeon told me that he felt I had lost consciousness, and since then, several other specialists have questioned me and all have come to the same conclusion: that I was knocked out. Since I was alone when it happened, we had to reconstruct events and what I did remember. One neurologist asked me if I remembered seeing stars or crashing through the fence, but I do not. My last memory is the horse stopping in front of the jump and my body tilting forward over the pommel of the saddle.

I've also read that the victim is not a reliable witness of whether loss of consciousness (LOC) occurred. Even so, "No LOC" appears on the paramedic's report.

The medics put a rigid neck collar on me, and then lifted up the tiny, antique chair with me in it, leaning it backwards to lower me down to the floor onto the backboard. I remember worrying whether that rickety chair would break with my 148 pounds in it, but thankfully, it held up. Once my back was on the backboard, they slipped out the chair and brought my legs down to a flat position.

They buckled me in and kept taking my blood pressure. Like all good medics everywhere, they asked me questions that would help them understand how lucid I was: the date of my birthday and what was the President's wife's name (Laura Bush).

Each step jolted even more the pain in my neck as the men carried me out to the open doors of the ambulance. Before they closed the door, I told the medics to ask my husband to bring my glasses. My sunglasses were still back at the jump where I fell, mangled from being caught between my face and the hard ground. I didn't have any glasses on when I led Jedi and walked back to the house, and still hadn't thought to put them on while in the house waiting for the ambulance to arrive. I am very near-sighted.

There was only a short quarter-mile of dirt road before we would hit pavement, but those 1300 feet were rutted by "washboard" and the pain was excrutiating. At that moment, I asked the medic who was attending to me if he was a Christian. He said something that was blatantly honest yet strange to tell someone in my position. He did not believe in God. I asked him to pray for me anyway.

Whenever the ambulance would come to a stop sign, the pain again was agonizing and I know I yowled in response. The driver would call back to me that he was trying to get there as quickly as he could. Finally, they backed into the ER and unloaded this broken horsetrainer, strapped to a hard and more-than-uncomfortable backboard. I am guessing now that they did not put me into a softer, cushioned gurney because of the unstable neck.

I was taken into an examining room and there was my husband and our 22 year old son. My husband told me later that he called our boy at work and told him to come to the hospital. I remember asking my son to please pray for me, and he said he would. I was in so much pain, particularly the very back, middle part of my skull. It hurt from being on the solid board, I thought (in retrospect, I am sure the back of my head would have hurt if it'd been nestled in a feather pillow!). A nurse came in and wiped off my face from the "wreck" and gave me a wet sponge on a stick to suck on. Someone took off my riding boots (naturally, I was still in my riding breeches and tall, black boots and spurs) and gave them to my husband.

I had a large scrape on the back of my left arm that had bled, but by this time was scabbed over. No one paid much attention to that, understandably. It was decided that I needed a CT scan. I had never had a CT or MRI up to this point, and they wheeled the gurney with the backboard on it (and me) down to wherever the CT machine was. The technician there was not the friendliest fellow, I thought (though in retrospect, I probably wasn't thinking anyone was nice for several days because of the effects of my brain injury). I told him I was in such incredible pain, and when he put me into the CT, I threw up while in there. I told him I felt like throwing up and he coldly instructed me not to do so while in the machine, but if I needed to later, to turn my head to the side. How was I going to turn my head with a broken neck?

I threw up several times after that. I didn't know it then, but vomiting is very indicative of brain injury. I felt so badly that my son had to see me like that, all messy from throwing up while lying flat, when they rolled me back into the room I'd been in before.

At some point, after the films were read, it was determined that what was wrong with me could not be taken care of at that hospital, and that I needed to have another ambulance ride to a larger city and another hospital.

Through all of this, the biggest and only thing I could think about was how much it hurt. To have trauma that close to the brain, it's indescribable. There is no time to worry about this or that, there is only being in the moment, in the arms of pure and deep pain. I am sure I prayed a lot. I am imagining the medics gave me something for the pain, but whatever it was, it was not enough to even make a difference.

I think I remember they gave me something like morphine for the ride south to the next hospital, and then they loaded me back up into the ambulance.

Flashback Part Three will be upcoming and will cover my stay at the second hospital.

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